Jeremy Pruitt was officially announced as Tennessee’s head coach on Thursday around noon. And he’s reportedly already landed his first assistant coach on his staff even before his introductory press conference.
According to Kevin Lytle of The Coloradoan, Colorado State offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Will Friend will be the first coach to join Pruitt’s staff at Tennessee.
Friend and Pruitt were teammates at Alabama in the mid-1990s, and the two were reportedly roommates in college. Friend has been the offensive coordinator for Colorado State since 2015 and has had a great deal of success there. His Rams’ offense was 47th in the nation in yards per game in 2015 and 30th in 2016. This season, Colorado State amassed the 10th-most yards per game in the entire country.
It’s expected that Friend will join Pruitt’s staff as offensive line coach and not offensive coordinator, however.
Before coaching at Colorado State, Friend was the offensive line coach at Georgia. Friend served as the Bulldogs’ offensive line coach from 2011-14. Georgia’s offensive line improved every year under Friend in terms of pass protection. The Bulldogs allowed 33 sacks total in his first season in 2011, but that number was cut all the way down to just 17 sacks in 2014, which was good for a three-way tie for 22nd in the nation.
At Colorado State, that same type of improvement has been made on the offensive line. The Rams gave up 17 sacks in Friend’s first season, 13 in his second, and just eight this season.
The Vols allowed 35 sacks on the year in 2017, which was tied for the 13th-most in all of college football.
Friend also served as UAB’s offensive line coach from 2007-10.
Friend had the distinction of being the highest-paid Group of Five assistant coach in college football this season. He made $540,000 at Colorado State this past season, which is a higher total than what every Vol assistant made this year aside from coordinators. Tennessee’s running backs coach, Robert Gillespie, was the highest-paid UT non-coordinator. He made $515,000 this year according to the USA Today Sports’ database of assistant coach salaries.
Pruitt will address the media in his introductory press conference as Tennessee’s next head football coach at 6:00 PM Eastern time. We will be there and live stream the press conference on both Facebook Live and Periscope.